“The friendship group will be abolished if all deputies resign from the group. Its abolishment would mean the closure of channels of dialogue between Turkey and Israel. Such channels should be wide open during times of [diplomatic] crisis. It is easy to abolish a parliamentary friendship group, but it is very hard to re-establish it,” Öymen told Today’s Zaman.
The total number of members in the Turkish-Israeli friendship group was 316 before Israel’s deadly offensive on Gaza began in late 2008. The offensive drew ire among Turkish deputies, with an overwhelming majority resigning from the friendship group. The group now has seven members, all deputies of the main opposition CHP.
“A parliamentary friendship group, which is supposed to create an atmosphere for dialogue between two countries, should not be turned into an issue of show. Meetings between governments should be conducted between parliaments, as well,” Öymen noted.
The CHP deputy chairman also recalled that Israel’s offensive in Lebanon in 2006 sparked a similar mass protest in Turkey’s Parliament. Almost all members of the Turkish-Israeli friendship group had resigned in a show of protest against Israel’s offensive. There were 263 members in the group at the time.
Nursuna Memecan, a Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy and the former head of the Turkish-Israeli friendship group, said the friendship between the two countries would not end with the abolishment of the group.
“The reason for the resignations from the friendship group was Israel’s Gaza offensive. Deputies showed their reaction and resigned from the group. I hope the group will be more active if relations between Turkey and Israel improve,” Memecan added.
There are currently around 100 friendship groups in Parliament. Among these groups, the most popular ones are the Turkish-Cuban, Turkish-US, Turkish-Azerbaijani and Turkish-German friendship groups.